the Stuart and Sherman of world war II

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Submitted: October 19, 2018

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Submitted: October 19, 2018




The Two Tanks That Made World War II



Marguerite Ahern


English 9

Seton Home Study School


Tanks are the titans of the defensive and offensive machine world. Ask anyone what they think of a tank and things like strong, invincible, powerful, and mighty, will come up in an  answer. Most tanks are all but invincible in a child's mind, and even adults can hold this idea without realizing it. Tanks do a wonderful, but not perfect, job of keeping the men who run the monstrous machine safe from those who look to kill them; as well as give those men inside, the power to fight back. Compared to being on foot, it must have been a relief to be given a chance to get into those metal armored boxes. Many versions of the tank have come to power, some were complete failures that got many people killed, and some saved a countless number of lives. They have existed in the US’s military guard for quite awhile now.  Tanks were used by the United States in World War I. This report is about tanks from World War II. The two most well-known tanks from World War II were the Sherman and the Stuart tanks.

In total, there have been around ten versions of the Stuart made by the United States and the countries we supplied them to. Whether that was just fitting the Stuart with a new, bigger gun or changing it to a new, more efficient engine. Ten times is not that many versions for a tank when compared to the Sherman, which has around seventy-five versions and variations, though there might be some unaccounted versions. It's not that the Stuart was not cared about, but that it was not supposed to be the best, overguned, armor heavy, tank of World War II. The Stuart was designed to be fast, light, and work smoothly and efficiently. The Sherman tank was designed to outgun and outnumber the German tanks, so it was made bulky and easy to produce quickly. The Stuart tank had a very different purpose which was related to speed. It's the fast part of conflict design, not the heavy hitting, tank killing part. To put it bluntly, it was meant to take out people, not tanks.

The size of the Stuart is 14.90 ft long, 7.35 ft wide, and 7.55 ft tall. Yes, this is a below average size of a tank, especially when counting German tanks. The majority of its length came from the need to fit in its crew as well as give its treads enough surface area. As the Stuart had thin treads for a tank, so it could not be used in the German mud season where the mud was so bad it was as if someone had taken a hose to each lawn for more than a week. The Stuart tank drove at a road speed (the fastest speed it could do on a flat road) of 37 mph (fast for a tank). The Stuart weighs 28,440 pounds, tiny for a tank. To put that into perspective, an average car weighs 4,079 pounds. The Stuart might be a small tank, but it is still 24,000 pounds more than the cars of the United States. People might think of her as the honey of the tanks, but that does not mean that the Stuart cannot pack a punch towards soldiers that did not have the fortune of a multi-ton tank to cover their back.

The M3 Stuart had four guns; the turret 37 mm gun, two .30 caliber machine guns on either side of the tank, and above the treads, as well as a third .30 caliber machine gun on the very top of the turret. Though that sounds like more than enough, the guns of the Stuart were comparatively weak when compared to other tanks. Two of the .30 caliber machine guns, the ones on the sides, can not be aimed; and the .30 caliber machine gun on top exposes the head and back of the gunner to enemy fire. The guns are relatively light and were never upgraded due to there being no need for the Stuart to be stronger. The Stuart was not meant to take down other tanks, so why would the engineers slow the tank down with bigger than necessary guns? It would also make taking on a German tank a temptation and result in the weak armor of the Stuart tank getting them killed.  Pride can get soldiers in trouble if they feel more protected than they really are.

But what about the four crew of the Stuart? The normal crew has one commander, one gunner, and two drivers. The commander, whose job it is to feed the orders through to the others and keep them organized. Though sometimes the commander needs to make big decisions for the sake of the all the crews lives. There is the gunner, who was in charge of using and maintaining the 37 mm main gun and three .30 caliber machine guns. Aiming and firing under the commanders orders. Most gunners know the ins and outs of the guns they care for. The driver’s job is rather self-explanatory, though it was to difficult a job for one man. The driver not only holds many jobs with his hands but controls the speed of both treads with each of his feet.  That is why the assistant driver was the fourth crew of the Stuart.

Overall, the Stuart was a fast, mass produced tank.  In 1945, the Stuart was falling prey to the German anti-tank weapons a lot more. The longer the Stuart was out there, the more and more advanced the German tanks, that it had to avoid or fight with a very low chance of winning, became. It was harder to do reconnaissance when tanks had to be mindful of mines and panzerfaust (one of the anti-tank weapons).  The turret of the Stuart was often removed to make it even faster, given that speed and maneuverability was almost the only thing going for the Stuart after it's prime.  Newer versions of the Stuart were used more than the M3 model, the most well known and talked about version, as well as the one this report is on. The number of Stuarts used in the front lines was almost zero as the German tanks could destroy the stuart with very little effort. Even though the use of the Stuart died out a bit near German territory, it was still used in the desert and loved in the jungle.  The jungle, as it is well know, has very little room to be driving multi-ton tanks down the middle of it.  So when soldiers got a hold of the Stuart with its amazing maneuverability, it became the favorite, even earning the name “honey” from the men who used it. This name fits given that it's a sweet ride, and can't ‘tank’ a beating. Even if it was still rather hard to get around in the jungle with the Stuart, it was still the best pick for the job.

The Sherman and Stuart really are well known for how they helped in World War II. Even if Sherman was almost the exact opposite of the Stuart. The Sherman, though mass produced even more than the Stuart, was a countless multiple stronger than the Stuart. As stated before, the Sherman has around seventy-five to eighty versions and variations. It was more heavily needed because the type of gun that this tank held was very much more important than the Stuart. There were rocket launchers attached, bigger and bigger machine guns were added, the engine was changed out for better types and sizes, and the armor was sometimes changed a bit to better hide the Sherman’s weaknesses.  One of the other reasons for all the changes was trying to keep it from catching on fire. Understand that some might think the Sherman was safer than the Stuart but they actually are closely equivalent. The Sherman caught on fire and the Stuart was the under-armored and under-guarded idea of a tank.

The Sherman, though a powerful beast in its own right, was almost as well known for catching on fire and blowing up as it was for being a powerhouse of a tank.  In fact, it was so well known for catching on fire, that the soldiers who used it nicknamed the Sherman the “Ronson”. The Ronson at the time was one of the most well known and reliable lighters in the United States of America. Back then, lighters were used almost as much as cups. They were used to light up cigarettes which helped calm the nerves of the users, and during a war, stress would be at an all time high (especially for the men in the army). So, for those men, who used this lighter often, to call the Sherman a Ronson was a real insult to the integrity of the tank. It might be a pretty sick nickname, even so, compared to the Sherman’s other nickname it is pretty tame. “The burning grave” the Sherman was called, clearly it was a lot more on the nose than “Ronson” with its distaste for the well known but unwanted fire, but it was still accurate. If it had not been for the fact that the United States mass produced these tanks like China and rubber ducks, it probably would have never beaten the well produced and slowly made German tanks.

What powerful weapons and armor did the Sherman have to back itself up on the battlefield? The Sherman is the stereotypical idea that comes to mind when people think of tanks.  It is really strong, it weighs an absurd amount, and has a quite slow road speed. To be precise, the Sherman weighs 62,600 pounds. That is roughly 34,200 pounds heavier than the Stuart, and 58,600 pounds heavier than a car. Though the weight of it might vary a small amount from Sherman to Sherman, they were always ridiculously heavy compared to things in civilian life. It's a perfect weight for a tank such as this. One of the guns on the Sherman can take down aircraft; this classifies it as a anti-aircraft tank. It also had the power to take out other, sometimes more armored tanks. The Sherman was extremely mass produced because, as mentioned earlier, the main strategy for these big tanks was to outnumber and overwhelm the enemy. This was the strategy even after the German tanks got stronger than the Shermans. As German tanks were of high quality, since it was viewed as undignified for the army of Hitler to go around in weak tanks, they took time to make. The Sherman could go at a road speed of 24 mph. Rather slow for a normal vehicle, but good enough for a tank. Near the end of World War II, the United States’ Sherman was unable to take out the German tank by itself. The number of Sherman tanks engaged in the war, however, made up for this folly.

The Stuart and Sherman are both greatly important to the Allies winning World War II. Without them, we would not have had much to offer when it came to tank-to-tank battle. Even though the Sherman caught on fire and took the lives of many crews, it saved the lives of a countless number of people, maybe even the world. The Stuart had low armor capabilities, but if we sent the Sherman two do reconnaissance, would it have worked at all? These two great machines are what carried many of the battles in the front lines, causing German foot soldiers to fall back in fear knowing none of their weapons could stop them. What would we have done without them? Truly, these tanks have earned their spot of honor in history.


  • Rickard, J. “Stuart Light Tank.” History Of War. (14 March 2014) (8/13/2018)


  • “M3A1 Stuart Tank.” national World War II Museum. (8/13/2018)


  • Danny Hakim. “Average U.S. Car Is Tipping Scales At 4,000 Pounds” The New York Times. (May 5, 2004) (8/13/2018)


  • “M3 Stuart (Light Tank, M3)” Military Factory. (8/13/2018)


  • “J. E. B. Stuart.” Battlefields. (8/13/2018)


  • M4 Sherman (Medium Tank, M4) (8/13/2018)


Into The Blue Exp Days. “How to Drive A Tank” Youtube. (8/5/2015) (8/13/2018)

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